- Slides: 14
COMETS, ASTEROIDS, AND METEORS
COMETS • Comets are loose collections of ice, dust, or rock particles whose orbits are usually very long, narrow ellipses. You can think of a comet as a “dirty snowball. ”
The comet’s head… • When a comet gets close enough to the sun, the energy in the sunlight turns the ice into gas, releasing gas and dust. Clouds of gas and dust form a fuzzy outer layer called a coma. A comet’s coma has a solid inner core called a nucleus. The nucleus and coma (the comet’s head) is the brightest part of a comet.
The comet’s tail… • As a comet approaches the sun and heats up, some of the gas and dust stream outward, forming a tail. The name “comet” means “long haired star” in Greek. Most comets have two tails, a gas tail and a dust tail. Both tails usually point away from the sun due to the force of solar wind from the sun. A comet’s tail can be more than 100 million kilometers long.
The origin’s of comets… • Most comets are found in one of two distant regions of the solar system- the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud.
• The Kuiper belt is a doughnut shaped region that extends from beyond Neptune’s orbit to about 100 times Earth’s distance from the sun.
• The Oort cloud is a spherical region of comets that surrounds the solar system out to more than 1000 times the distance between Pluto and the sun.
Asteroids… • Asteroids are rocky objects in space that are too small and numerous to be considered real planets. Most asteroids revolve around the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This region of the solar system is called the asteroid belt.
Meteoroids… • A meteoroid is a chunk of rock or dust in space. Meteoroids come from comets or asteroids. Some form when asteroids collide in space; others form when a comet breaks up and creates a cloud of dust that continues to move across the solar system.
Meteors… • When a meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere, friction with the air creates heat and produces a streak of light in the sky- a meteor.
Meteorites… • If the meteoroid is large enough, it may not burn up completely. Meteoroids that pass through the atmosphere and hit Earth’s surface are called meteorites.